The Blue Morpho butterfly shines such a brilliant blue it almost seems electric. Its secret? Microscopic holes that play with light in an incredible way. And by using nanotechnology, we can replicate those same effects on printed objects, like money. Bling!
The technology highlighted above uses an array of holes that are each about the size of a virus (usually 100-200 nanometers in diameter). These tiny dots interact with light using a principle of physics called plasmonics. Light sort of collects on the surface of the film and "creates higher than expected optical outputs by creating an electromagnetic field, called surface plasmonic resonance." The best part is that the stamping can occur after the object has already been made, making implementation a lot easier (i.e. money would be printed as normal, and then stamped). At the same time, the effect would be extremely hard to reproduce, making it very tough to counterfeit.
The technology, called NOtES (Nano-Optic Technology for Enhanced Security), was created by Nanotech Security, is already in talks with a number of banknote manufacturers. And the tech can be applied to more than just money. ID's, obviously, but also things like pills. Since it's just a simple stamping process, each pill could be stamped to verify its authenticity. Nanotech Security even thinks this technology could be used in a disc like a Blu-ray, but with much higher information density, to the tune of "gigabytes per centimeter." It's fascinating stuff.
Prototypes were made using an electron microscope and an ion beam to burn material off (think atoms at a time) of a quartz plate. Once that quartz master has been created, they use it to make copies out of nickel. From there, things just have to be stamped. It can work with light from the ultra-violet, through visual spectrum, and all the way infrared, which means it could create watermarks that are invisible to the human eye. All of that cool stuff aside, it's just going to make cash money shine and be more awesome. It'll give the us of the future one little reason to actually use cash instead of just paying for everything with our phones. [Fast Company]